A professional food critic has taken a stab at fast-food fish sandwiches during the Lenten season, and he actually loved one particular brand's creation, which stood out from the rest.
Scott Vogel, a writer at Long Island's largest newspaper Newsday, reviews a broad variety of foods for the publication. From upscale French bistros to Valentine's Day cookies from Dunkin' to rating the finest steakhouses on the island, Vogel is no stranger to sharing his opinion on both high-end and fast-food meals. His recent taste test of fish sandwich options available at the biggest fast-food chains left him with one clear winner. (Related: McDonald's Is Making These 8 Major Upgrades.)
But first, let's start with what he didn't like. McDonald's Filet-O-Fish sandwich was down at the bottom of the pile. Vogel writes: "If you are wondering how Americans came to prefer fish sandwiches that neither taste nor appear like fish, look no further than McD[s], which has been extruding these clones since the early '60s."
Moving on to Burger King's Big Fish Sandwich, the critic took issue with the filet's size and substance. "Its filet, a breading event in which pollock has a cameo, is but three inches square and tastes like it looks—white," he said.
White Castle's Panko Breaded Fish Slider got a milder rebuke, with Vogel saying "The fish was no worse than elsewhere," while of Arby's King's Hawaiian Fish Deluxe sandwich, he wrote: "Its rhomboid plank of fish is remarkable only for an oddly bitter taste to the breading accented by a few notes of high school cafeteria."
Wendy's Crispy Panko sandwich drew less ire: "The sandwich does better with pollock than all the competition, its large, Arkansas-shaped patty both buttery and flaky enough to complement a crunchy exterior that, if not really panko, at least knows what panko is."
But when it came down to Popeye's new Cajun Flounder Sandwich, the critic had genuine praise. Vogel wrote in part that Popeye's sandwich was "the rare fish sandwich that actually tastes like something."
Here's the final verdict on it: "Cayenne and other spices bring real heat to a batter that's crunchy, not soggy like so many of its rivals. The portion of flounder is notable too, especially given the price, its saltiness nicely balanced by a sweet brioche bun. Between that, Popeye's quarter-inch pickle slices, creamy tartar, good sense to nix the cheese, and insulated foil bag, the Cajun Flounder sandwich is a worthy follow-up, a beacon of light in a sea of despond."
It looks like Popeyes has done it again by creating another iconic, bar-raising sandwich, this time in the fish category.
For more fast-food trends, check out 6 Most Anticipated Fast-Food Menu Items Launching This Year, and don't forget to sign up for our newsletter to get the latest restaurant news delivered straight to your inbox.